How to Fit In (or Stand Out) in the Czech Republic
Many travelers these days want a local experience when visiting a new place. And while your lack of the language can be a dead giveaway, these tips can help you blend into the crowd without having to open your mouth
How to Fit In
Tone Down Your Smile
One way to spot the foreigner among Czechs in any photo is a big toothy grin. The Czech smile is often a slight upturn of closed lips. The average resting face may even appear upset at first glance, but this is just because smiles are reserved for sincere interactions. And don’t be put off by a downturned frown with what could be mistaken for a disapproving “hmmph” when speaking with locals. This is just the sound of active listening among Czechs. At left, the American smile vs the Czech smile.
Carry a Backpack
While Americans, for example, may associate backpacks (or “rucksacks” for our British friends) with schoolchildren, they are practically part of a Czech uniform. You could attribute this accessory to a love of camping and outdoor activities, which is often true, but a backpack is equally likely to be used to simply carry groceries home from the supermarket.
Dress for the Part
If you see a cyclist pass you on the street in a helmet and matching logo-covered spandex, don’t assume they’re training for a professional race. They may just be on their way home from work. Czechs often dress head-to-toe for whatever activity they are participating in at the moment. Every hiker’s closet will have boots, hiking trousers, waterproof jackets, and all of the outdoor gear that could possibly come in handy in the forest (in a backpack, of course). This trend extends to more formal situations as well, meaning that you’ll often find symphony, theater, and ballet audiences dressed in jackets and ties or dresses and heels.
Get a Dog
Czechs have one of the highest dog-ownership rates in all of Europe, and we’re not talking about wild street dogs. Czech canines are well trained and obedient. You’re likely to find them in most parks, on trams and trains, and even in offices or restaurants. In fact, many servers are more likely to offer your dog a free bowl of water than a free glass to their customers.
How to Stand Out
Certain behaviors scream, “I’m a tourist!” at first glance. While that’s not the worst thing in the world, just be aware that these are some of the fastest ways to draw attention to yourself in the Czech capital.
Raise Your Voice
The most obvious place to observe this phenomenon is on public transportation. Trams, buses, and the metro are generally quiet places in the Czech Republic. While the locals have their noses buried in a book or a smartphone, international groups can be heard having conversations across the aisles or shouting through the car about which stop they’ll need to get off at.
Wear Matching Outfits
This trend could be as innocent as a sea of similar hats bought by a tour group at their previous destination. Bolder examples involve groups of bright pink boas and a tiara for bachelorette parties (or “hen dos”), or the ridiculous costumes of British stag parties, ranging personalized T-shirts to grown men in diapers or cow costumes. Nothing says, “I’m not from around here” like a couple or group who are dressed alike.
Pose for Wedding Photos
You’re very likely to see couples in large white wedding dresses and tuxedos around town, taking pictures in front of Prague’s skyline and historical monuments. But don’t mistake this for a local trend. It’s actually the Chinese phenomenon of pre-wedding photos, popularized by celebrities and combined with a romantic Chinese movie (filmed in Prague) called Somewhere Only We Know, that fills the city with smiling brides and grooms.
Eat While Walking
Lunch is a sit down meal. Dinner is a sit down meal. Czechs even make reservations to have an afternoon coffee. So wandering the streets with a burger or a burrito in hand is a clear indication of a visitor. To truly embrace the local lifestyle, sit down, relax, and order a beer with your meal (no matter what the time of day).
Instagram Your Ice-Cream Filled Trdelník
These doughy spiral treats dusted in cinnamon, sugar, and nuts are often advertised as “Bohemian” and “traditional” but are actually neither. You’re not likely to find them anywhere outside of tourist centers or Christmas and Easter markets. The addition of ice cream and Nutella is even more recent, making them a prime subject for #foodporn photos. Just be sure to leave #traditional or #Czech out of your captions.
This story was written by Auburn Scallon.